Khabib Nurmagomedov says he will be relieved to no longer hold the UFC lightweight title as the Russian star doubled down on his retirement stance and urged fans not to read anything into his meetings with Dana White.
Khabib set some sections of the MMA fanbase aflutter again this week when he revealed he was set to meet UFC boss White on his next trip to the US at the end of the month.
The Eagle – as he has done consistently in recent months – reiterated however that he was intent on allowing the 155lbs division to move on in his absence, and that he will stick by the retirement decision he announced after submitting Justin Gaethje in October.
That was the tune Khabib struck again to the attendant media, including RT Sport, on Tuesday night on the sidelines of EFC 33 in Moscow – the first occasion Khabib’s newly-acquired MMA promotion Eagle Fighting Championship has held an event in the Russian capital.
“[Dana and I] meet every time I’m there. It’s just been hyped up too much by the media recently, and I don’t really like it,” Khabib said of his upcoming meeting with White.
“When I’m in Vegas, we always see each other, drink tea and have dinner. I don’t want to let the media know the messages we exchange – it’s between us.”
“In short, I told him that I didn’t like the fact the [lightweight] division is stuck. And it’s because of me.
“Although some fighters have just fought each other and it’s clear who should fight for the title, and who should fight for the number one contender spot.
“So they are supposed to have the next fights in May or June. There’s some time for match-making. But I’d like it all to be decided and I let Dana know that I don’t want to hold it all up.
“I said my word, I’ve done everything I wanted to achieve in this sport.
“At the same time I understand what Dana wants. He lost that guy, he lost me. And this sport needs fighters who generate big money – he’s in charge of the company and I understand what it’s like to be in that position.
“But I’d like him to understand my position, too.”
Given his firm stance on his retirement, it now appears only a matter of time before Khabib formally vacates the 155lbs title – something which the undefeated Russian said would come as a relief.
“I’ll feel relieved. Like a weight off my shoulders. Let them just fight for the vacant title. Let them fight for the number one contender spot. I have no problem with that,” he said.
“I have my people (who I have defeated) in this weight class – Dos Anjos, Gaethje, Conor, Dustin Poirier… Their future wins will keep my name as part of the talk around the place, too. So let them move on and do some work for me now.”
Even if the UFC moves to strip Khabib of his title rather than him formally relinquishing it, the undefeated Dagestani star claimed it made little difference.
“It won’t change anything, I’ve got four at home,” said the 32-year-old.
Whatever happens, White is unlikely to slam the door shut completely on one of his most prized fighters – and Khabib understands talk of a comeback will linger long into the future.
“This door will always be open. I doubt I’ll have a single press-conference without the question: ‘Are you thinking of a comeback?’ That speculation will always be there.”